Designed Living Environment: A New Policy for Architecture, Form and Design

By Christer Larsson

Christer Larsson is the current Director of City Planning for the innovative and modern city of Malmö in Sweden. Christer has a solid background of 20 years in the private construction and architecture industry as both an architect and urban designer. He taught architecture at the University of Technology, Lund and was a contributor to a number of private practices before starting his own. Outside of his official city post, Christer is chairman for the Nordic City Network, a network of 12 Nordic cities working on knowledge-based economies regarding social structure, regionalization, political leadership and innovative city planning, fostering interaction between local universities and the city.

A paradigm shift in the national architecture programme

What is modern architecture policy, and why is it being reviewed now? The increased importance of cities, continued urbanisation, new lifestyles, changes in working life and globalisation, are the concepts in focus when the Government issues new guidelines for architecture policy. The term paradigm shift indicates that the Government is announcing a new approach to and new conditions for architecture.

It is good that the Government is initiating a review based on new conditions. The starting point for the previous architecture programme fifteen years ago has changed. A value-based reference framework is now being highlighted. This value framework naturally includes democratic aspects as important elements. The work on a new architecture programme will be broad-based, with a bottom-up perspective in which citizens and human capital are seen as resources in the city of the future.

It was the previous Government that took the initiative to develop a new policy for architecture, form and design. In the Government’s working title, ‘Designed living environment’, the focus is on people – recognising that all construction is rooted in people’s desire to have a good life. However, the words ‘living environment’ also indicate a broader approach. Apart from focusing on beauty and aesthetics, which are, of course, important parameters, the aim is also to create sustainable structures. This strikes a chord in Malmö, which has 15 years of experience of sustainable construction (Västra hamnen, Ekostaden, Sege Park, Hyllie and most recently the Malmö Commission’s work to create a living environment that can counteract the rise in ill-health).

A holistic approach is also present throughout. From the point of view of society, this means, for example, that we cannot just talk about cheap building and cheap homes, despite the acute shortage of homes. We must also focus on quality and ensure that investments are long-term sustainable initiatives. What we must aim to build is a socially, economically and environmentally sustainable city. This has also been Malmö’s guiding principle over the past 10-15 years. The work on environmental issues is what creates the framework for our future.

Designed living environment also entails a broader approach. In addition to the built environment, it must also comprise form and design in a broader context.

When the previous national architecture programme was developed, Malmö drew up its own action programme in parallel. This was entitled Urban Planning and Architecture. It was developed jointly by the city’s administrations to serve as a practical tool and demonstrate the city’s ambitions, while also being a source of inspiration for everyone involved in the urban planning process. This time too, Malmö is in the process of presenting a new action programme. It is entitled Malmö, City of Architecture and will be part of the City’s General Plan. Malmö is a committed city with a strong will. The General Plan is a future-oriented document that the city worked on via a bottom-up concept, and the Malmö, City of Architecture action programme has been developed with similar working methods.

Malmö’s plan for the future is based partly on the necessity of developing the city we have. Instead of talking about special municipal requirements, we want to see cities’ distinctive features as an asset. I see Malmö’s efforts as important experience and a source of inspiration in the national work and I want to share that experience.

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